Remembering Jane E. Hawkins

Introduction by Greg Bear, with obituary by Ian K. Hagemann, originally published to Facebook on January 8, 2022

Here’s to the passing of Jane E. Hawkins, one of our esteemed Clarion West students from the class of ’88. We have also lost from this class Mary Rosenblum and Kathy Ann Goonan.

As a teacher of that class, I fondly remember them all. It’s especially hard for a teacher to lose students, but this class was also taught for a week by Gardner Dozois, and he is gone from us as well. Here’s a photo of Jane from that summer taken by fellow student Gregg Fackler. The obit below is written by Ian K. Hagemann.

Jane E. Hawkins was born to Phyllis Hawkins and Ken Hawkins on March 11, 1951, in Davenport, Iowa. She developed her own mathematical notation system before taking algebra, won the science fair for some mathematical work, and received a letter addressed to “Dr. Hawkins” after sending a letter to a college professor about prime factoring when she was in high school. She was part of the first engineering class that admitted women at Case University (now Case Western Reserve University), and remained lifelong friends with her college roommate Denise DiFillipo. Jane was hired by Bell Labs before graduating near the top of her class, and they paid for Jane’s Master’s Degree at Columbia University. The Phone Company had to replace Jane with three people after she left the minicomputer operation, but she stayed with the Company until she had enough money saved up to live for five years.

She moved to Seattle specifically in search of a place where she could find community. A life-long science fiction fan, some of Jane’s proudest and happiest moments were of welcoming people to the community and of working on the things that brought people together. In her early years, she hosted a number of room parties at the conventions she attended, some of which were more popular than the Convention’s official Con Suite. She then began to volunteer and eventually run such official Con Suites at a number of conventions including Corflu and alt.polycon. She also organized and frequently hosted a monthly get-together of fans, writers, and editors in the Seattle area. She was on the committee that founded Norwescon, ran their Art Show for the first three years, and was honored as the Fan Guest of Honor at that convention many years later. She also ran the art show at the Seattle World Fantasy Convention. She worked for years on the programming committee at Wiscon, a Feminist Science Fiction Convention where she developed and maintained their first database and was on the Safety Team. Jane organized Janecon in 1989, where she married Luke McGuff at the Banquet. The two divorced amicably several years later, but the event remains a fond memory for those who attended the convention. Jane also Chaired the Potlatch literary science fiction convention in 1992, which went on to become an annual convention that traveled up and down the West Coast for over 20 years, with Jane working the Con suite every time it was in Seattle. Jane also helped put on CroneCon, a gathering of friends and family for herself and her friends Jeanne Gomoll, Debbie Notkin, and Donya White that was held the year that they all turned 50.

Jane was a good friend to many people, and was proud of the ways she helped other people be more themselves. Jane was present when her friend Judy gave birth to Sam Kaplan, stayed with Judy for some time after the birth, and stayed in touch with Sam throughout his life. She also stayed with a number of people and helped them transition at the end of their lives, including Mary Mairet, Anita Rowland, Anna Vargo, and Phyllis Hawkins. Most recently, Jane provided this support to Vonda N. McIntyre, Jane’s housemate or next-door neighbor between 1978 and Vonda’s death in 2019.

Jane had low-grade depression for most of her life, and became severely depressed in the late 1990s. This touched off a period that she described as “ten years of Purgatory and five years of Hell,” during which she lost touch with most of the people in her life. She eventually found relief through the regular use of psilocybin mushrooms, and was able to reconnect with many of the friends who had become estranged before the end of her life.

A survivor of multiple cancers, Jane received a terminal diagnosis and went into hospice care in late 2021. A lifelong supporter of death with dignity who was now facing a life where she could not be awake and coherent without excruciating pain, Jane chose to medically end her own life on Friday, January 7th, 2022. She was attended by her sister Jo Hawkins and Jane’s friends Amber Hackney, Glenn Hackney, Ian K. Hagemann (this writer), Ole Kvern, Kate Schaefer, and Rachel Yamagiwa.

Jane is remembered for her excellent fudge (made using the recipe from The Joy of Cooking), her wisdom, her generosity, and her humor.

If you are troubled by thoughts of suicide, please remember that the National Suicide Hotline is available at 1-800-293-8255, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

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